(My story …continued)
Like all forms of depression, there are varying degrees of postpartum depression. It can fluctuate from of a mild case of the “baby blues” to a crippling case of serious depression, or a million situations in between. To be honest, I don’t know where my case fell on that spectrum as it’s difficult to objectively diagnose one’s self. I can tell you this: I never wanted to physically hurt my baby or myself. But I did regret having a baby. I felt no connection to him. Only regret. And hopelessness. I made the biggest mistake of my life and there was no way out. I wanted someone to take my baby away and take care of him.
When I got home from the hospital, I was still physically a mess. But that was nothing compared to the paralyzing fear I had of this tiny little person.
That’s when I stopped sleeping.
I’m not talking about “I have a newborn to feed in the middle of the night” sleep deprivation. I’m talking about sleep deprivation that makes you hallucinate and your whole body hurt. When my husband offered to take over so I could get some sleep, I would lie down, close my eyes, and my heart immediately started to pound. “Sleep! You need to sleep! Just go to sleep!” I screamed in my head. But I couldn’t. Not with that little person in my house. I had to make sure he was warm, sleeping, breathing, eating, etc. Not because I felt a motherly instinct to do those things, just because that’s what I was supposed to do.
My days were spent limping around changing diapers, changing clothes, pumping, crying, making bottles, doing laundry, rocking, bouncing, walking, crying….. All of these events played over and over in one continuous, pathetic loop until I decided it was an “acceptable” time to start drinking. But even after drinking a bottle of wine I still couldn’t relax and I still couldn’t sleep.
My husband grew tired of seeing me cry. He didn’t understand why I wasn’t sleeping and didn’t know what to do to help. About 4 weeks postpartum, he decided the best thing was to take the baby out of the house for a night. He didn’t want the negativity around his son and thought maybe that way I could sleep. So he and my son went to his mother’s for the night.
And I cried. This time out of sheer relief.
I wanted to know my baby was safe (he was) but I didn’t miss him when he was away. I think this is the best way to describe what was going on in my head during those first few months – I wanted my baby to be safe, happy, and taken care of. But I couldn’t do it. I didn’t know how.
I didn’t want to admit I was having such a problem adjusting to this new life of mine, so for the most part, I didn’t. My husband was obviously aware, but no one else really knew the extent of my struggle. One night, after drinking several glasses of wine I tearfully wrote my sister an email and asked her if she regretted having her two kids, because I regretted having mine and I hated my life. She carefully answered, no, she didn’t regret having her children, but understood how difficult it could be. I think that’s when my family became aware of the issue; however, I assured them I would be fine, and in fact, hey, I feel better already!
But I didn’t.
I didn’t feel better when I went back to work. I didn’t feel better when my body healed and I lost the baby weight. I didn’t feel better when I told everyone how wonderfully I was doing. I slapped on that super authentic smile and mechanically went through the motions of everyday life. I went to work, I did laundry, dishes, went grocery shopping, made meals, and yes, I took care of my son. I went through all of the motions I was “supposed to.” A stranger (God, even a close friend) would say I was a happy, well-adjusted new mom. But in my head I was still a nervous wreck.
I wanted to be a good mom.
I wanted to be happy.
Why couldn’t I relax and enjoy motherhood? But my heart never stopped pounding. My mind never stopped racing. My hands never stopped shaking.
The time finally came when I had to admit to myself what I had subconsciously known from the beginning – I had postpartum depression. I couldn’t ignore it or wait for it to go away on its own. I had to do something about it. I went to my doctor and started taking anti-depressants. Days, weeks and months went by; I continued to go through the motions, and then…gradually…my heart beat slowed. Little by little my hands become steadier. And slowly I began to see a dim light and the end of a long, dark tunnel.
(My story continues next week…)